Drummers, but not only, today we talk about you with the film Whiplash!
Today we combine the topics of the last two articles, we talk about both cinema (last week we talked about the film Miss Peregrine) and drummers (John Bonham was the subject of a couple of weeks ago) with Whiplash, directed by Damien Chazelle.
Although premiered in January 2014 at the Sundance film Festival, the film was officially released in US theaters on October 10 of the same year. On the occasion of its “birthday”, we tell you everything about the plot, the success, the amazing cast and some curiosities.
To take advantage of the drum theme a little, it can be said that Whiplash has a plot with a simple rhythm, which becomes more and more intense.
The story tells of 19-year-old Andrew Nieman, who wants to be the greatest jazz drummer in the world, like his idol Buddy Rich.
Andrew is a normal boy, he has no musical “pedigree” and his father, Jim, a high school teacher, is a failed writer, which makes Andrew want to be among the greats even more.
Andrew is starting his first year at the Shaffer Conservatory of Music, the best music school in the United States. At Shaffer, being the best means studying with Terence Fletcher and being invited to play in his band, which represents the school in jazz competitions.
Based on their first meeting, which is really bad, Andrew is surprised that Fletcher asks him to join the band, albeit in the position of second drummer. In order to play with Fletcher and learn from him, Andrew is content with this role. Gradually the young man discovers that the teacher works without ever being satisfied, but with rather particular methods.
Fletcher’s methods of demanding the best of his students include belittling them, throwing objects at them, and creating such a high level of tension that some (the less than excellent ones) collapse under the weight of pressure. Being the best in Fletcher’s mind isn’t just about playing well, it’s about knowing you’re playing well and understanding your mistakes.
How the film ends
Andrew works hard to be the best, but his passion for achieving perfection quickly turns to obsession as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of his abilities. In addition, he asks himself questions: what are his priorities in life, what is he willing to sacrifice to be the best, and how much he will have to endure emotionally to achieve greatness.
I don’t want to go into detail about Andrew and Fletcher’s difficult relationship and how it is resolved, but I can say that Andrew gets what he wants in the end. It also makes us understand, in a bittersweet way, that nothing comes without effort or difficulty and that human relationships tend to be very complex.
In short, if you want to achieve something, your hands must bleed at some point … and I’m not saying it at random!
Get ready to know some interesting facts about the Whiplash cast!
Let’s start with the protagonist Andrew Nieman, played by the talented Miles Teller. The first question we ask ourselves is: is Teller really playing the drums in Whiplash? And the answer is: Oh yeah!
Miles Teller, a guest on Jimmy Fallon‘s talk show, talked about his musical background. In addition to confirming that he was indeed the one playing the drums, Teller shared with Fallon that he is also self-taught. Teller began playing at the age of 15, which means a dozen years of practice before playing a drummer on Whiplash.
But Teller isn’t the only real drummer in the film. Director Damien Chazelle admitted that he had studied the instrument for a long time, only giving up when the great pressures he received were getting the better of his love of music. The coveted jazz drum class at Princeton High School was in fact sliding him into terror and obsession. Whiplash’s story is his own, and the nightmare teacher played by J.K. Simmons is a real person.
It is not that the title Whiplash arrives at random and I think there is no need to explain to whom it refers. Damien Chazelle was really shocked in his personal life by that kind of experience.
Indeed, before filming began, Chazelle gave J.K. Simmons these instructions: “I want you to go beyond what you think is the normal limit,” telling him, “I don’t want to see a human on the screen anymore. I want to see a monster, a gargoyle, an animal.”
And J.K. Simmons of that monster gave such an accurate interpretation that it deserved the Oscar for best male actor. And other 46 awards!
Awards and acknowledgments
In addition to the Academy Award to J.K. Simmons, Tom Cross was awarded the Oscar for best editing while Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley won the Oscar for best sound mixing. In December 2015, the soundtrack also received a Grammy nomination and the film was nominated for the NME Award for Best Picture.
Whiplash is counted among those with the lowest grossing to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, although it had already received great attention at the aforementioned Sundance Film Festival, receiving the highest score in the audience and jury vote.
Whiplash was initially supposed to compete for the Oscars in the Best Original Screenplay category, but on January 6, 2015, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced that the film would instead compete in the Non-Original Screenplay category. This fact surprised quite a few people, including director Damien Chazelle. Chazelle who, to tell you another curiosity, also won the Oscar for La La Land, as best film.
And, as one curiosity leads to another, Miles Teller was initially considered for the lead role in La La Land, but Ryan Gosling was eventually cast.
Curiosities and thougths on Whiplash
Since we are enjoying the fun facts about this film, let’s conclude by mentioning a few more that will especially appeal to drummers!
For example, although Miles Teller had been playing drums since he was 15, to play Andrew Neiman he took additional lessons 4 hours a day, 3 days a week.
At the beginning of the film, Andrew listens to a CD of Buddy Rich, the idol he wants to emulate. The song Caravan that Shaffer’s band prepares is itself by Rich.
Did you know that Buddy Rich never received any formal music education and said he never practiced in his life? In addition, he was infamous for his short temper, and verbally insulted his bandmates for what he considered inferior to musicality; this foreshadows Fletcher’s abusive treatment of his students. According to numerous critics, Fletcher represents, in addition to the teacher that Chazelle had, the world of cinema in general, capable of “throwing you out” at the first mistake.
What do you think of it? How much effort do you have to have to reach your goals? How important is talent and how much is determination? And, in addition, is it necessary to endure anything to learn or to succeed?
And we are not the only ones asking these questions ourselves. When asked about the end of the film, J.K. Simmons said that he and writer-director Damien Chazelle wanted “to inspire discussion and debate and not decide – are we happy for Andrew Neimann or are we lamenting his loss of humanity. The debate I love, is how far is too far? How much is too much? Is it worth it? This kind of relentless abuse might be necessary and appropriate if you’re training Navy Seals, but I don’t know if it’s appropriate in a music school. But it’s there, and it can be productive; there’s no denying that. “